The Problem With Being a Lucid Dreamer

Last night I had a dream that the someone was showing me that the trade paperback version of Redshirts had gotten to number five on the New York Times paperback bestseller list, and in my dream, I remember clearly responding, “yeah, but this is a dream, so I’m not going to go and get too excited about that.” And then I woke up, not in the least excited. Or disappointed, I suppose. Even so, being one of those people who almost always knows he is dreaming does take some of the fun out of process.

On the other hand, Redshirts is number one on this paperback bestseller list, and “by an enormous margin” at that, so I don’t think I will complain too much.

Unless I am dreaming now?!?

(check hairline and gut)

Nope. Real life.

29 Comments on “The Problem With Being a Lucid Dreamer”

  1. Not only do I have lucid dreams, many times they are in the same location where I have had other lucid dreams – I usually say to myself something like “oh! I am here again?”. I don’t really mind that but the problem/issue I am dealing with, in the dream, never really gets resolved, the story line just advances.

  2. When I dream and something bad happens, I usually just use my Jedi powers to fix it. (Giant monster wants to turn me into muck or into a Republican…) I don’t know if it is because, I know I am dreaming or if it is because, I am delusional and have a big ego.

  3. Lucid Dreaming is a particularly fascinating one of the more than a dozen documented Abnormal Sleep States. To keep things brief, I omit the PDF of my chart on those states of consciousness.

    Dreaming’s importance to the professional writer is emphasized in Zen in the Art of Writing, written by Ray Bradbury, published 1990.

    * “You grow ravenous. You run fevers. You know exhilarations. You can’t sleep at night, because your beast-creature ideas want out and turn you in your bed. It is a grand way to live.”

    * “I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”

    * “Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”

    I have learned to write down lucid dreams immediately upon awakening, and these transcripts have included now-published poems, short stories, and equations.

    Most puzzling are the ones that feel prophetic at the time, a tiny fraction of which then come true. Once, before flying to New York City to present papers at a conference, and speak at the United Nations, I had a vivid dream in which is just KNEW that I’d meet Robert F. Kennedy there. Even asleep, I knew that RFK was dead. This was so odd that I told my wife. Then flew to NYC, gave my papers, and, sharing a cab to the UN with a random man on the street, he gave me his business card. It read: Robert F. Kennedy, Esq.” He was an attorney. To be sure, this looks like a Dickensian coincidence, and strains my knowledge of ontology and epistemology.

  4. I only have lucid dreams when I am doped up on medication. In the last few years, I’ve noticed I have had dream sequels which is kind of strange.

  5. You’re in good company on the trade paperback list: in addition to Redshirts, I’ve read and enjoyed World War Z, Among Others, and (of course) The Hobbit.

    I’ll have to take a look at the other two books on that list– haven’t even heard of the authors, let alone the books.

  6. Friend of mine has had a few lucid dreams where he decided, well, since I’m dreaming, I’m going to go flying like superman. That sounded pretty cool.

    I don’t think I’ve ever had a lucid dream. I’ve always been a bit jealous of those who do. But I don’t usually remember my dreams by the time I wake up, so maybe I do, but then I forget….

  7. Most of the dreams I remember upon waking, I know are dreams when I’m dreaming. But rarely do I have any sort of control over them, which I understand is part of lucid dreaming. I wouldn’t want to control them, though. They might get less interesting, and whoever plots my dreams is way more imaginative (and arguably deranged) than I am. Nor do I mean that as a joke. I mean, I know it’s my subconscious exercising various degrees of free-association and house-cleaning, but “I” am my conscious mind and occasionally I can reach into my liminal preconscious during meditation, but my subconscious isn’t really the entity that claims identity.

    @ Julie

    In Russian, dream dreams you…or is that in Australia?

  8. @ Greg

    I’ve had dreams where I was in low or microgravity, with astounding realistically modeled Newtonian mechanics, but the only flying dreams involved skydiving, which I’ve done in real life many times. Actually, I take that back, I got the idea for two separate fictional flying machines because I dreamt them, one earlier this year, the other a few years back. You should try keeping a dream journal. When I wake up from an interesting dream, I recount whatever I can remember into a digital recorder I keep on my vanity. It’s also a really effective and enjoyable way to overcome grogginess.

  9. Greg, try to start a dream diary. As a kid I was always jealous of my sister, who would recall and tell all about her dreams at the breakfast table, while I never remembered any of mine. For quite a while I believed she (and others) were making these things up.
    Flashforward some twenty years, when I (still hardly recalling any of my dreams) read about something called dream diaries. At first simply any piece of paper and a pen, for writing down whatever small fragment of a dream you still remember upon waking up. Within ten days of doing that I could note recall and note down and remember almost everything I’d dreamed that night close to 100% of the time.
    Mind you, most dreams were boring and since I’m lazy enough I stopped writing my dreams down, so now I’m back to mostly not remembering any of my dreams – but that is easy enough to remedy…

  10. I love dreams. I dream about the same places time and again, frequently I’m able to fly. Sometimes I want to stay in those dream worlds so badly that when I start to wake up, I grab whomever is nearby and beg them to help me stay in the dream.

  11. Gulliver, Jantar, I must confess an awfully high level of skepticism about th effectiveness of a “dream diary”. I can give it a try.

    I don’t know if I mind not remembering my dreams because usually, the ones I *do* remember are me getting cornered by velocirapters. I’ve told my wife if we remodel the house we ought to look at reinforcing some of the lower level windows. She does not approve.

    If I could do lucid dreaming, I’d be changing those dreams….

    Gulliver: I’ve had dreams where I was in low or microgravity

    One time I had a dream that I was flying a helicopter… long before I ever flew a real helicopter. I have no idea if I was modeling things realistically or not, but it sure felt awesome. I wish that one had been lucid because I would have dream-flown as long as I could.

  12. I really enjoyed Redshirts and the Coda’s were a super idea. But, I have always wondered if the big plot hole was intentional; sort of an extra inside joke in the book that pokes so much fun at plot holes? I’d describe it, but don’t want to do spoilers here.

  13. I used to practice lucid dreaming a lot, before I had kids who drastically altered my sleeping patterns. I had gotten pretty good at it, mostly through keeping a dream journal and by training myself to often wonder “Is this really happening?” during my waking life, a habit that carried over into the dream world. Another way I can trigger awareness in a dream is by trying to turn the lights on or off — the light levels remain the same no matter what. I’ve also found that telephones never, ever work right in my dreams so if I’m having trouble getting my cellphone to dial right, I do a quick reality check.

    When I first started becoming lucid I really didn’t know what to do so I just destroyed things, which was a lot of fun. But as I kept it up I realized that I could defeat “the killer” who often pursued me in my nightmares simply by becoming aware that he was a dream figure and standing up to him, which caused him to shrivel up and disappear. Once I figured this out I started to notice a corresponding decrease in my levels of anxiety and paranoia during the day. I was also able to stop a plummeting airplane and guide it gently to the ground with my mind, which resolved another one of my irrational fears in my waking life. Lucid dreaming can be a powerful therapeutic tool, in my opinion. Oh, and another cool thing: every time I realize I’m dreaming, everyone in the dream applauds me. It’s awesome.

    I’m really glad I read this, actually. I want to incorporate lucid dreaming into the novel I’m starting work on but it’s been such a long time since I did it. Maybe I should start practicing again.

  14. They say you can tell if it’s a dream or not by trying to read something twice and seeing if it’s the same both times. They are wrong. My subconscious is as much in to reading as my awake brain. But, like Heather Null, my cellphone never dials correctly.

    Then, of course, there are the dreams in which I’m searching for a toilet, but no room I come across has one, even if it’s outfitted with all the other bathroom fixtures. After a few rooms like this, I realize it’s time to wake up and find a real one, and stop drinking so much water right before bedtime.

    I do love when my cat is sleeping, with paws and face twitching, and then suddenly she awakens and does all sorts of conversational meows while facing me, once her eyes focus. I’m fairly certain this is the kitty equivalent of saying “I just had the weirdest dream!” and then telling me about it. It is one of the cutest things ever.

  15. @ Greg

    I must confess an awfully high level of skepticism about th effectiveness of a “dream diary”. I can give it a try.

    For me it’s essential as most of my best music and story ideas come from dreams (cliché as it sounds). I’ve tried both pen-and-paper and dictation. I prefer the digital recorder because it lends itself well to stream-of-conciosuness and it’s when you begin organize dream thoughts that the memory seems to start slipping away. Good luck. Let us know if it works for you. Try not to look at the birds outside the window when you wake :)

    One time I had a dream that I was flying a helicopter… long before I ever flew a real helicopter. I have no idea if I was modeling things realistically or not, but it sure felt awesome.

    I was taking a senior-level classical mechanics class at the time and I recalled being very impressed at the realistic ballistics, thermal layers and even wind-deflection. By that time in my life I had already been skydiving half a dozen or so times, including one high-altitude jump, so I had a fair idea of what falling through the atmosphere was like.

  16. My downfall with lucid dreaming: when I’m having a nightmare, I know it, and it always occurs to me that I can instead enjoy kittens and puppies frolicking happily in a sunny field. But then I override the happy dream and return to the nightmare, reasoning that narrative integrity has been damaged and I must follow the story to its end. Because, you know, perhaps there’s a twist and the hook-handed cephalopoids mean me no harm. I do this every time.

    (The hook-handed cephalopoids always mean harm.)

  17. Lucid dreams. I remember a long time ago when an ex-girlfriend used to practice at trying to fly in her dreams. She was a lucid dreamer. Interesting stuff. I’m a vivid dreamer. That goes the other way around: one continues the dream upon waking up. Not always but stress has something to do with it. Had one dream where I was being chased for whatever reason (rarely remember dreams). I awoke (physically). got out of bed and ran right into the wall but two feet in front of me. Yeah, I wanna be a lucid dreamer, instead.

  18. I don’t know if it strictly counts as lucid dreaming, but when I was a kid, I developed an interesting strategy for dealing with nightmares–I’d roll the credits. :)

  19. Yes, rolling the credits counts as lucid dreaming. I remember the first time I read a magazine article about lucid dreaming. I was amazed. My shocked thought was, “You mean everybody doesn’t do this?” It still sort of boggles my mind. If you don’t know you’re dreaming, how do you rewind the dream and start again, to get a better outcome. How do you know what’s about to happen? How do you decide to fly or teleport? That last feels totally odd, by the way. The entire world folds and shrinks down into your belly and then unfolds again with you at a different location.

  20. I asked my mom in a dream if it was a dream. She said no. I was kind of mad at her about it when I woke up.

    Hmm. Seems I haven’t used what lucid dreaming I have as well as others — when I realize I’m having a nightmare, I just wake myself up. I remember complaining about nightmares as a kid and one of my older brothers telling me how to do that. I generally wouldn’t realize it was a dream until it’d get terrifying enough that I was about to wake up anyway, but after waking myself up a few times I either stopped having so many nightmares or I stopped remembering that I’d had them. Either way, I preferred the arrangement.

  21. Lucid dreaming is much more complex than realizing this is a dream and not getting excited about the reality. You should try to explore new things while lucid dreaming and indulge in your fantasies, that;s what lucid dreaming is about , lol.

  22. Lucid dreaming seems like a revolutionary tool to investigate the psyche and nature of consciousness.
    Experienced lucid dreamers report the following:
    1) Healing emotional issues, like recurring PTSD nightmares, phobias, anxiety and other disorders,
    2) Using lucid dreaming to direct ‘healing intent’ to the physical body,
    3) Accessing creativity to solve waking problems, create new artwork, music and other goals,
    4) Encountering a non-visible ‘awareness behind the dream’ with which lucid dreamers request things and ask questions,
    and 5) Acting for spiritual growth by meditating in lucid dreams, etc.

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